7 Countries With Nearly Free College: Where You Can Study Abroad for Close to Free

 August 31, 2021
How Student Loan Hero Gets Paid

How Student Loan Hero Gets Paid

Student Loan Hero is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). Student Loan Hero does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero is an advertising-supported comparison service. The site features products from our partners as well as institutions which are not advertising partners. While we make an effort to include the best deals available to the general public, we make no warranty that such information represents all available products.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.

countries with free college

We’ve got your back! Student Loan Hero is a completely free website 100% focused on helping student loan borrowers get the answers they need. Read more

How do we make money? It’s actually pretty simple. If you choose to check out and become a customer of any of the loan providers featured on our site, we get compensated for sending you their way. This helps pay for our amazing staff of writers (many of which are paying back student loans of their own!).

Bottom line: We’re here for you. So please learn all you can, email us with any questions, and feel free to visit or not visit any of the loan providers on our site. Read less

With the cost of tuition in the U.S. increasing year after year, you might be interested in earning your degree in another country. After all, there are countries with free college for American students, plus several more with programs that cost next to nothing.

By heading abroad, you can earn your bachelor’s degree — without a side of student loan debt. To learn about free college around the world, specifically schools that offer programs in English, let’s look at the following categories:


Note: All currency conversions reflect foreign exchange rates as of Aug. 30, 2021

Countries with free college, no strings attached

Have you ever thought about going to college abroad? Not only can you reap the benefits of free tuition, but you can also travel the world and encounter unique perspectives.

You can find completely free college in Europe if you go to one of the following countries:


In 2014, Germany stopped charging tuition fees to students, German and international alike. Thanks to its tuition-free policy, many American students study in Germany every year.

Data from the Institute of International Education shows that during the 2018-19 school year, there were more than 12,000 Americans studying abroad in German universities. Americans aren’t the only ones studying in Germany, either. As of the 2018-2019 school year, Germany had more than 393,000 international students attending its universities, according to Studying-in-Germany.org.

Germany is home to several world-class universities, including the prestigious LMU Munich, Heidelberg University and Humboldt University of Berlin. In fact, eight of Germany’s higher education institutions were ranked among the top 100 international universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020.

While you won’t pay tuition attending college in Germany, you will have to cover your cost of living. The average international student in Germany spends about 725 euros (around $850) per month on rent, food and other living expenses. To get a study visa, you’ll need to show you can afford 861 euros per month (around $1,010).

You may also pay what’s called a semester contribution that ranges from 100 to 350 euros ($117 USD to $410), depending on your university. This is not associated with tuition but rather covers costs related to student services, student government and, at some universities, public transportation in the area.

If you’re interested, you can learn more through the German Academic Exchange Service.


Iceland does not charge tuition fees for locals or international students who attend public universities. All you’ll pay is a small registration or an administration fee. For example, the University of Iceland charges a registration fee of around $600 per year. While Iceland has seven universities, the University of Iceland is the only one to offer bachelor’s degree programs (some are options for English-speaking students).

Like many other European countries, Iceland is an expensive place to live. Housing costs start around $800 per month. Food will set you back an average of $400 per month or more.

Learn more about attending college in Iceland through the website Study in Iceland.


Norway’s public universities are tuition-free for international students and local residents. You may have to pay a small semester fee that’s currently less than $100, but otherwise, you won’t spend anything on tuition.

Norway has 22 state colleges and universities, including the University of Oslo, which is ranked No. 131 on the Times Higher Education 2020 world rankings.

Before buying your ticket, though, you should know that Norway has a very high cost of living. The average student budget is more than $1,300 a month. What you save in tuition you may end up spending on food, drinks and other living expenses, if you don’t budget carefully.

You can learn more about opportunities to study in Europe through the website Study in Norway.

Countries with nearly free college

Besides the above countries with free college tuition, there are several other countries with exceptionally low tuition costs:


To study in Austria, American students pay around $855 each semester. Schools in the country include the University of Vienna, which is ranked No. 134 in the world by Times Higher Education. Some programs at Austrian colleges and universities are in German, but you can find several that are taught entirely in English.

The cost of living in Austria is generally higher than in the United States. In particular, food prices are somewhat higher, as is the cost of manufactured items.


France has its fair share of prestigious universities, such as the top-ranked Sorbonne, PSL Research University Paris and Ecole Polytechnique. Many French schools teach programs in English.

France’s public universities have some of the lowest tuition fees, and some schools have waiver programs that bring costs down for international students to costs comparable to those paid by students from countries in the E.U.

You can expect to pay a decent chunk of change to live in France while you study, though. Expenses will vary widely depending on where you live and how you spend your time. For example, while student housing in a smaller city could be relatively affordable, living in a furnished flat in Paris will likely cost quite a bit. The same goes for transportation costs. Dining out can also add up, as you can expect to pay anywhere from around $10 to more than $30 for a restaurant meal.


The nearly 6,800-student University of Luxembourg, the only public university in the country, charges 400 euros (about $470) for the first two semesters of study and 200 euros (about $235) for every semester thereafter — even for foreign students. It teaches a range of programs in English, French and German. Its student body is very international, with 129 nationalities represented.

At the University of Luxembourg, you’ll find a uniquely multicultural environment. The college even requires undergraduates to spend one semester abroad. If you decide to study there, you would have a double study abroad experience.

As for cost of living, Luxembourg isn’t cheap. You can get a sense of your budget on the university’s website, where you’ll find the going rate for bus tickets and common grocery items. The estimated monthly budget for students is around $1,770.


Tuition costs for bachelor’s degrees at Spanish public universities average between $176 and $4,115 a year. For international students, fees may be the same, about $1,175 to $1,763 higher or even two or three times higher, according to MastersPortal.com.

While most programs are in Spanish, you can find some English programs at universities like the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and the Global Business School in Barcelona.

Like many other European countries, the cost to live in Spain varies widely depending on where you’re studying and the lifestyle you choose. Big cities like Barcelona and Madrid could hit your wallet a little harder than smaller ones. As far as food goes, the average student can expect to spend nearly $150 a month on meals.

Other options for low-cost tuition

Beyond this list, you can find inexpensive options in a variety of other countries, including Italy, Malaysia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. To learn more about bachelor’s degree programs all over the world, check out the website Studyportals.

If you’re bilingual, then you have even more options for countries with free college. For instance, if you speak Spanish or Portuguese, then you could study for free — or nearly for free — in Argentina or Brazil, respectively.

Should you study in one of the countries with free college?

While a free college education is a great deal, there are pros and cons to getting your degree abroad.


  • You’ll likely graduate from college free of student loan debt.
  • You’ll have a unique life experience abroad. Studying in another country is the ultimate way to broaden your horizons far from home.
  • You’ll learn about new cultures and encounter diverse perspectives.
  • You’ll also gain a global perspective, which is valuable in today’s job market. Your time abroad could help your resume stand out to future employers.


  • You’ll have to do a lot of research about universities and programs to make sure you’re applying to the right one.
  • Besides going through an unfamiliar application process, you’ll likely need to apply for a student visa. In addition to providing details about your study plans, you may have to demonstrate you have enough money in a bank account to cover your living expenses. Check the visa requirements for your destination country.
  • The university you choose may not have the same kind of name recognition to future employers as an American school. Additionally, certain fields may require a domestic degree.
  • Your options for majors may be more limited than they would be in the States.
  • You’ll have to pay for travel expenses to get to and from a different country. Plus, the cost of living may be higher in a big European city than in a college town in the U.S.
  • Living in another country requires major adaptability and independence. Going to college is already a major life transition; having to adjust to a new country on top of everything else may be a lot to handle, especially at the age of 18.

How do you get student loans for colleges abroad?

Before studying outside of the U.S., you should know that other countries have varying rules for student loans that make college more affordable for residents and international students alike. While some countries (like those on this list) offer free tuition for all or low-cost fees for students from abroad, others may charge based on a student’s projected income.

This means that the more you stand to make with your degree, the more you’ll pay to cover your education. A few other countries, such as Australia, Canada and England, collect student loan payments only after borrowers start to earn enough to pay back what they owe.

As an international student, you may not qualify for a country’s national student loan program. But some places offer financing options to foreign students, so it’s worth exploring what’s available to you.

Can you earn your bachelor’s degree abroad?

With the cost of four-year public colleges averaging $20,598 per year and four-year private colleges averaging $44,662 per year in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics, some students are looking for alternatives. Studying in a country that offers free college can save you from paying back student loan debt down the road, plus allow you to get a world-class education and the chance to travel the world.

If you are interested in this option, do your research, clarify your goals and think about the benefits and challenges of attending free college in another country. Not everyone will enjoy leaving the country for four years. You might prefer to go to college in the U.S. and save up to spend a semester abroad.

You may find yourself with cheap options for college stateside, too, thanks to scholarships and financial aid. Before you decide to go, make sure you qualify for financial aid. While federal grants don’t apply abroad, federal student loans may be valid, giving you an extra boost to making your dreams of an international education come true.

Emily Long contributed to this report.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
0.99% – 11.98%1Undergraduate

Visit College Ave

1.13% – 11.23%*,2Undergraduate

Visit SallieMae

0.99% – 11.44%3Undergraduate

Visit Earnest

1.50% – 11.33%4Undergraduate

Visit Ascent

1.12% – 11.23%5Undergraduate

Visit SoFi

1.15% – 11.01%6Undergraduate



Visit FundingU

3.80% – 9.36%8Undergraduate

Visit CommonBond

* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.

1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 8/9/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

3 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Rates include 0.25% Auto Pay Discount
  2. Explanation of Rates “With Autopay” (APD)
    Rates shown include 0.25% APR discount when client agrees to make monthly principal and interest payments by automatic electronic payment. Use of autopay is not required to receive an Earnest loan.

    Available Terms
    For Cosigned loans – 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 years. 
    Primary Only – 10, 12, 15 years

    In school deferred payment is not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).

4 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs.

Rates are effective as of 10/01/2021 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes income-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates.

1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions, please visit AscentFunding.com/Cashback. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs are available for the most creditworthy applicants and may require a cosigner.

5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

Sofi Disclosures

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.66% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.23% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.90% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.10% to 11.34% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.08% to 10.86% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.05% to 11.29% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 10.66% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.20% to 11.23% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (>www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.15% – 11.01% (1.15% – 10.24 APR)Fixed interest rates range from 4.18% – 11.70% (4.18% – 10.83% APR).

Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 10.66% (1.89% – 10.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.64% – 11.23%% (4.64% – 10.95% APR).

Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 9.22% (1.89% – 8.50% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.38% – 10.44% (4.38% – 9.72% APR).

Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 8.02% (1.89% – 7.72% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.28% – 9.24% (4.28% – 8.94% APR).

Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.97% – 7.06% (1.97% – 7.06% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.94% – 8.58% (4.94% – 8.58% APR).

Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.44% – 9.58% (4.44% – 9.52% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).

Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.53% – 7.03% (3.53% – 6.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).

Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of June 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.09%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 

Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.

Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer.  Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.

Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.

Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.

Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

7 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

Funding U Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.

8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.  If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.